Cache Valley and Logan, Utah, have long been synonymous with high-tech industry, agriculture, and, of course, Utah State University.
But up until a few years ago, officials with the Cache Chamber of Commerce and Logan city were struggling to gain the attention of outside businesses, according to Sandy Emile, president/CEO of the Cache Chamber of Commerce. Another problem: finding a way to let others know about “the outstanding global businesses” in the valley that market their products overseas.
These issues were clearly illustrated to Emile when officials at the governor’s office said they had “a hard time sending businesses” to talk with the chamber because they “didn’t know what kinds of businesses you want to grow in Cache Valley,” Emile recalled.
“We found that there was no clear vision of who and what Cache Valley was,” Emile said. “We all know that Cache Valley is a lovely place to live, work, play, raise family, but what does that mean for business? We hadn’t articulated it, and we hadn’t clarified it. We didn’t know who we were! How could we expect anyone else to know who we were?”
So Emile and others created Logan On The Edge, an economic development initiative spearheaded by the Chamber and Logan city. On The Edge seeks to attract Utah-based businesses with high-paying jobs to expand into the valley and also seeks to provide a resource for businesses already in Cache Valley that want to expand locally, Emile said.
The president/CEO of the chamber, who’s lived in the valley for more than 30 years, described the economic development initiative as something that “all your other successful cities knew and were doing years ago.”
A consulting group from outside the valley helped create On The Edge.
“We’re not on edge of a major airport; we don’t have a major trucking distribution center; we don’t have a lot of rails and we have bad air,” Emile explained. “Let’s acknowledge that we’re a little bit removed — hence the title (Logan On The Edge).”
After five years of development, Emile said, the initiative has “gone live.” The website, www.loganontheedge.com, was launched earlier this year. The site provides local and prospective businesses with Cache Valley’s economic data and a site selector tool that allows companies to see available commercial property.
“It’s a great website, and it’s something Cache Valley hasn’t ever had,” Emile said.
Among the statistics listed on the website:
• With a population of 118,912 in 2012, almost half of the area’s residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
• The median income in 2012 was over $54,000 and is forecast to be over $64,000 by 2017.
• The valley boasts a 3.7 percent unemployment rate at a time when small communities are still reeling from the Great Recession. Nationally, the unemployment rate is 5.8 percent.
• Technology and finance are the fastest growing job sectors in Cache Valley, with a 10 percent growth rate; education, health and social services and construction are not far behind.
To date, the valley’s biggest employer is Utah State University. Other notable businesses include ICON Health & Fitness; Inovar, a circuit board manufacturer; Campbell Scientific, a supplier of data-sharing technology, and USU’s Space Dynamics Lab.
Emile said the Logan On The Edge streering committee is now working on boosting the initiative’s visibility by visiting with business site selectors “one-on-one to let them know what we can do for them.”
Kirk Jensen, Logan city’s director of economic development, who chairs the steering committee, said businesses have to critically evaluate if there are “opportunities that work for them” when considering a move to Cache Valley. Jensen said that common questions from businesses include: “Is there sufficient acreage for my business?” “Is there a building available for my business?” “What’s the workforce concentration like?”
The Logan On The Edge site helps provide answers.
Emile said several site selectors have already contacted her.
“We also know this is a slow process,” she said. “If I can at least have the soft interest on the table, I feel like we’d be making progress.”
People like Jeff Edwards, president and CEO of the Economic Development Corporation of Utah (EDCUtah), have heard about Logan On The Edge and are supportive of it. EDCUtah helps recruit new businesses to Utah and retain those that are already here.
Emile and Jensen presented the initiative to EDCUtah in Salt Lake City earlier this year.
“When we first heard about this idea of strengthening the brand of Cache Valley, we were very supportive,” Edwards said. “(In) economic development, it is really important to differentiate yourself from other places. Plenty of places like Logan are marketing themselves, and unless you get the message out there to let people know what you’re really about, it’s not going to happen.”
Edwards and EDCUtah officials believe Logan On The Edge provides an “insightful view” of Cache Valley.
“It capitalizes on the spirit of what’s been going on there for decades,” he said. “The challenge is, how do you set yourself apart from other communities not only in Utah but throughout the West? The Logan approach is very authentic — it’s not just a sales pitch; it’s done in a very personal way.”
The role of EDCUtah will be promoting Logan On The Edge to national site selection consultants — firms that work with different companies to decide where those companies should expand.
“We’re prepared to help them get that campaign in front of these site consultants,” Edwards said. “That’s the thing we can do that will be most valuable to Logan.”
Jensen said it was important for him and Emile to reach out to EDCUtah.
“As they interact with site selectors that may show an interest in our area, they understand the message and hopefully are able to effectively convey that,” Jensen said. “Our story is that Logan offers an exceptional quality of life, yet it is one of the top-rated small cities in America ... for doing business. That’s a compelling combination.”
Emile said that the end result of On The Edge won’t change the skyline of Cache Valley.
“It’s going to look a lot like it is right now because we believe in preserving and valuing our open space; we understand the value of agriculture in our community,” she said. “We know we’ve identified areas where we already want to grow new buildings that are technology businesses. We will have more higher paying jobs.”